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Former chairman of the Seattle Mariners dies

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Hiroshi Yamauchi, the nominal owner of the Seattle Mariners since 1992 and, a tad more significantly, the chairman and largest shareholder of Nintendo, has died at the age of 85.

As far as actual team and game impact, Yamauchi may be the least notable Major League Baseball owner of all time. During the more than two decades Nintendo has owned the Seattle Mariners, he never even attended a ballgame, even when the Mariners played in Japan a couple of years ago. He gave new definition to the term “hands-off,” designating various executives as the team’s control person and, in all likelihood, not knowing the name of any Mariners players apart from Ichiro. Which, to be fair, could also be said of a great number of American baseball fans since, oh, 2002 or so.

Obviously Yamauchi’s main job made him a tad more notable. He led Nintendo from 1949 until his retirement a couple of years ago and in that time he transformed it from a struggling toy and playing card company into a video game powerhouse, overseeing the creation of the various iterations of the Nintendo gaming systems and its signature characters like Mario and Donkey Kong.

That he never fired the guy who designed Mario Kart in such a way that you were hit by that friggin’ lighting bolt thing every time you were about to win a race against your kids is one thing I will never forgive him for, in life or in death, but I’m sure he meant well.

Given his retirement this will obviously have little or no impact on the Mariners, but it will be interesting to see if they make public note of it at the next home game.

Jason Kipnis could join Team Israel for 2017 World Baseball Classic

CLEVELAND, OH - NOVEMBER 02:  Jason Kipnis #22 of the Cleveland Indians throws during batting practice prior to Game Seven of the 2016 World Series against the Chicago Cubs at Progressive Field on November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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With the 2017 World Baseball Classic around the corner, Team Israel has reportedly reached out to Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, per MLB Network’s Jon Morosi. Tournament rules stipulate that a player’s roster eligibility can be achieved in one of several ways: they were born in the country in question or hold citizenship/permanent legal residence there (or are simply capable of qualifying for citizenship), or one of their parents was born in the country or holds citizenship/permanent legal residence there.

For Kipnis, it’s the latter. Kipnis’ father, Mark Kipnis, is Jewish. That gives Kipnis the status he needs to suit up for Team Israel, despite the fact that he is a practicing Roman Catholic. He has yet to confirm or deny his participation in the competition.

Fifteen players have confirmed for Team Israel so far, including Mets’ infielder/outfielder Ty Kelly and free agents Sam Fuld, Nate Freiman, Jason Marquis and Jeremy Bleich. Per MLB.com’s Chad Thornburg, eight minor leaguers will also appear for the team. Like Kipnis, at least three other major leaguers are eligible for Team Israel’s roster but have yet to accept or decline involvement in the WBC: Dodgers center fielder Joc Pederson, Mariners infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia and free agent left-hander Craig Breslow.

Rangers to sign James Loney to minor league deal

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 21: James Loney #28 of the New York Mets tosses to first base against the San Francisco Giants during the second inning at AT&T Park on August 21, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  The New York Mets defeated the San Francisco Giants 2-0. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Free agent first baseman James Loney has reportedly signed a minor league deal with the Rangers, per FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman. The deal includes an invite to spring training and a $1 million salary if he makes the major league roster in 2017.

Loney picked up a one-year stint and starting role with the Mets in 2016, slashing .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs in 336 PA. While his numbers were down a hair from the .280/.322/.357 batting line he produced with the Rays in 2015, he provided the Mets with a necessary, if underwhelming upgrade over an injured Lucas Duda through most of the season.

The 32-year-old infielder is expected to have some competition at first base, with at least five other candidates in the mix: Jurickson Profar, Ronald Guzman, Ryan Rua, Joey Gallo and Josh Hamilton. Rumor has it that the team is planning on platooning Rua and Profar in 2017, barring any impressive breakouts or injuries during spring training, though Loney could still provide the club with some veteran depth and a decent left-handed bat off the bench.